Bipartisan bill would ban airplane cellphone 'yapping'

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Lamar Alexander,Dianne Feinstein

Key Senate Democrats and Republicans have teamed up to ambush a Federal Communications Commission plan to let passengers talk on their cellphones while in flight.

“Keeping phone conversations private on commercial flights may not be enshrined in the Constitution, but it is certainly enshrined in common sense,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. “This legislation is about avoiding something nobody wants: nearly 2 million passengers a day, hurtling through space, trapped in 17-inch-wide seats, yapping their innermost thoughts.”

His co-sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., added: “Flying on a commercial airline — in a confined space, often for many hours — is a unique travel experience that is, candidly, not conducive to numerous passengers talking on cell phones. This bill recognizes the use of cell phones to make calls during flights can be disruptive and irritating to other passengers and would prevent such communications during domestic flights. The bill, however, would not affect the ability to communicate via text and email during a flight.”

The FCC today is expected to begin taking public comments on their plan to open the gates to letting passengers use their cellphones on aircraft. Polls have found that majorities of Americans do not want to sit next to blabbering passengers, but are OK with emailing and texting.

Their Commercial Flight Courtesy Act would prohibit the use of voice communication through cellphones on regularly scheduled commercial flights. If the FCC eventually approves, it would allow texting and email, and also OK the use of tablets like Kindles and iPads during flight.

“When you stop and think about what we hear now in airport lobbies — babbling about last night’s love life, next week’s schedule, arguments with spouses — it’s not hard to see why the FCC shouldn’t allow cell phone conversations on airplanes,” said Alexander. "The solution is simple: text messages, yes; conversations, no.”

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at